Archive for the 'travel' Category

Day #18 – not planned

After falling asleep around 7 PM I of course woke up around midnight, definitely not on the plan! Fortunately fell asleep again. I could definitely get used to the king size plus bed, we could have slept in a T if we had wanted.

Then properly woke up around four in the morning, feeling fine. I don’t think I’ve ever been so ready to wake up for a flight in the wee hours of the morning (when we fly to Europe from Iceland the flights are mostly early in the morning so normal wakeup hour for a flight is around 5 AM). Ate an unusual breakfast, olives and artichokes in olive oil and some chocolate pudding but took the chicken spears with us to eat on the plane so we wouldn’t have to buy breakfast there.

No trains this early, neither the airport trains nor the tube so we called the concierge to call a cab for us. Not a problem, got a call to the room 10 minutes later when the cab arrived. No walking between Terminals 5 and 1, the buildings aren’t connected and surroundings definitely not pedestrian friendly. Took 10 minutes to drive, I wouldn’t even have wanted to try to drive, really confusing to find the way, endless spaghetti junctions. Taxi left us in front of check-in on Terminal 1.

In we went and had to stand in a seemingly endless queue, we’ve gotten used to the luxury of self-check in or early check-in and baggage drop in Keflavík Airport, those queues are a thing of the past here. But no self-check in machines and no baggage-drop desk for Icelandair in Heathrow and only 2 desks to service a full plane, this took ages. Then of course another long queue for passport checks and the third one for security. I was really glad not to be tired to start with.

When we finally got within it was almost time to go to the gate, just had time to buy a bottle of Macallan (can’t get it in the duty-free in Keflavík any more) and a box of our favourite Thornton’s chocolates.

Found a McLaren car, of course I took a photo of my McLaren fan with the car. Would have liked to be able to sit in the car, but totally understand why they don’t let people do that, of course.

Walked all the way out to Gate 52 (a looong way, it seemed), a short wait and then everybody was hoarded on a bus and driven out to the plane. Jón Lárus and me thought a flight of 2 hours and 40 minutes really short, after all the long flights from Australia the days before.

Finally in the air, really really looking forward to getting home. Bought a glass of red wine each (hey, it was about 5 PM in our body time, even though it was morning for most everybody else) and ate the chicken we had left from our uneaten dinner the day before.

Reading and watching a movie in the short flight, a soft landing in Keflavík, eldest and sweetest daughter picked us up at the airport and then home at last. Lovely!

Day #17. Nope, not home yet

Can’t say I slept properly on the Abu Dhabi-London flight, mostly 10-15 minutes at a time. But the flight went well, and not a mention of ash in the in-flight messages until right at the end when we had to fly an extra round about Heathrow Airport since it was newly opened and there was a queue of planes to land.

hringsól

Never seen before how Iceland’s name looks in arabic:

Land we did, even especially soft landing. Out of the plane as usual. Then our troubles started.

Of course our flight was cancelled as I had been afraid of. Not even moved from Keflavík to Akureyri as they had done a few times. We had quite some problems finding out what we were supposed to do, first we went to a desk marked Information, that turned out to be a check-in table, the girl sitting under the Icelandair banner didn’t know anything, girl besides her on an Aer Lingus desk seemed really helpful and told us to go to Gate 14 for more information. The problem with that was only that Heathrow’s Terminal 1 doesn’t have a Gate 14 – only gates 1-12 and then 16-60. Went back to her – “oh, really? well they must have changed it then” Not very likely, really, the signs didn’t seem to be new or anything. Told us to go to the security gates, there finally we found someone that knew something about where to go – through the passport control and to the baggage reclaim area, apparently our baggage was supposed to come there (which we doubted, as it was checked all the way to Iceland). Of course it wasn’t there but we found a really really helpful guy in the Lost baggage dept. He told us to wait for 15 minutes to see if our baggage would show up, which it didn’t, he came back to us and got our baggage reclaim tickets and called Etihad Airways. They of course had withheld our bags since they knew our flight was cancelled and didn’t want to send the bags just somewhere – of course they didn’t know where we were or what flight we’d take back to Iceland. They then sent the bags pronto to where we were, the helpful guy went out to meet the car from Etihad and brought us our bags. Then told us to go to the check-in area, find a small stall marked Icelandair and the people there would tell us what to do next and hopefully book us on another flight soon.

There we met another nice man who booked us on the first flight the morning after (07:00 – hoping for the ash to clear) and told us to go talk to the hotel booking desk on the next floor up. Take a receipt for the hotel, Icelandair would then pay it back (yeah right – that sure didn’t work out well though – maybe more on that later).

Upstairs, turned out to be quite hard to find a hotel, the guy at the help desk tried really hard to find a room for us that we could check in right away (this was about 10:30 in the morning, not normal check-in time at hotels). Finally found one, a horribly expensive room at a hotel on Terminal 5. We couldn’t really go to a hotel in the city, since we had to show up at 5 the next morning and the tube and the airport buses don’t start running that early.

I think I’ve once in my life had such a nice hotel room. Huge, 2 lazy boy chairs, a big bathroom with both shower and bath and warm bathrobes and everything. Didn’t use the big TV in the bathroom but I did take a bath. Fairly cold but sure was the most heavenly cold bath I’ve ever taken.

Free wifi – nooo, that they didn’t have, though. Typical.

This here was a lovely sight:

stóra rúmið
I could get used to this bed, yes I could…

A quick trip downtown (well, quick, tube took an hour each way), had lunch at a typical pub, no free internet there either but some nice food. I wasn’t sure if to leave tips, sent a text msg to my brother-in-law to ask, yes it would be appropriate to leave a tip since we were eating.
Next place was a Starbucks, which advertised free internet – but of course one had to have a Starbuckscard, user and password for the net. Great!!! We were way too tired to fix that so we drank our huge cup of tea (I) and tiny espresso (Jón). Was even too tired to dig into my backpack for the camera to take a photo of Big and Small Cup (could have used my phone but did I think of that? nope). Stopped at a Marks & Sparks and bought some antipasti and chocolate pudding to have something to eat at the hotel that night and back to Heathrow. Glad Terminal 5 was the last station – otherwise we might have missed our stop, kept falling asleep on the tube.

Hotel room was pure heaven to come back to. Bought an hour’s internet, used about 1/2 an hour and kept the rest for the next morning, (we thought, anyway), if only to be able to see the ash prognosis before going to our terminal. Then bed, even though it was only 7 PM – our body clock said 5 AM the next morning of course. Fell promptly asleep, didn’t even eat the Marks & Sparks “dinner” out like a pair of lights.

Day #16. Uncertainty

Woke up some time in the morning, 2 hours until landing in Abu Dhabi. Those 2 hours seemed incredibly short, when you’re in such a long flight 2 hours are nothing at all. Got some weird small really thick pancakes for breakfast, I was sorry not to have asked for the cheese omelet also on the menu. The yogurt with honey and fresh fruit was excellent, though.

Landed in Abu Dhabi, I wish we could have at least left the airport for 5 minutes to be able to say we had been in Asia, the airport is of course international area. Could have gone to a lounge but decided it wasn’t worth it for such a short stop (hopefully), save it for if the flight would be delayed. Instead we went and had a Burger King meal (I always think it’s best to eat fast-food chain food in airports, fairly cheap and you know what you’re getting), then went to the gate, hoping for the flight to be on time.

Really didn’t like that the board said that a flight to Dublin was 24 hours delayed!

Free wi-fi at the gates, now why don’t more airports have this? I’m pretty certain that a western airport having free net would get way higher popularity ratings. Managed to write a facebook status my brother misunderstood and thought we would be delayed in Abu Dhabi.

But we were hoarded inside the gate on time and boarding passes ripped in two, which made us quite a bit more optimistic. Saw on yr.no that Keflavík would be closed next morning though. The optimism rose to new heights when we got to go out to the plane too. In front of us, walking on the ramp, was a really drunk guy, to the point of actually falling on top of the poor people walking in front of him. Fortunately he didn’t sit very close to us, but I did warn the flight attendants, who thanked me for that. The plane was totally stuffed, not an empty seat in sight, no chance of finding an empty row to lay down. Amazing that after the 15 hour flight we’d already been on, we thought the 8 hour from Abu Dhabi to London didn’t seem long at all. Yep, the flight went off on time.

Fell asleep soon after, hmm, breakfast? No, dinner – or something.

Day #15. 1.st day of travel back

Meant to sleep in but of course that didn’t happen, travelling back home was starting to look like way more difficult than there – besides flying against high altitude winds so the longest flight leg would be 15 hours instead of 14 and the next one 8 instead of 7, there was this tiny matter of maybe getting stuck because of the volcanic ash. Wrote on facebook that I didn’t quite like the prognosis, London Heathrow was supposed to be closed from Monday till Tuesday and then our own Keflavík Airport to close on the Tuesday. On the exact days we were supposed to be landing there. Dislike status set.

Anyway, the last hotel breakfast, actually we wouldn’t have had any breakfast tickets but for the fact that our fellow Icelander (who left the week before) didn’t use all his tickets. Can’t imagine why they didn’t give us any tickets for the last day. Toast with jam, I think this is the first time for more than 20 years I have toast with jam (but no cheese). Australians don’t like eating cheese and definitely not cold cuts for breakfast, seem to think it ridiculous to eat ham and other meat so early in the morning. Seems weird to me, but to each his own. (I also think French breakfast is weird – coffee and pain au chocolate isn’t really what I fancy first thing in the morning, at least).

Packing, tried to stuff our checked-in bags as much as we could, for such a long trip it would be hell to have too much inside the planes. Plus one always buys something in the airports anyway, so better leave some space in the carry-on bags. Used up the half an hour or so we still had on the net and then checked out. One local phonecall extra, we could afford that.

Decided to take a cab to the airport, hailed one outside the hotel. Got a really nice cabbie (well, didn’t expect anything else as a matter of fact – almost everyone we met had been nice). Asked if we were in a hurry, which we definitely weren’t, so he took us through the city instead of the highway, a bit cheaper that way. We were in good time in the airport, it doesn’t have any automatic check-in machines yet but the queues weren’t long so that was quite all right.

The rich and famous (well the ones on first and business class) had red and golden carpets and much nicer dividing poles and lines than the rabble like us in Economy class, of course.

I had to say Eyjafjallajökull for the girl checking our passports – maybe she wouldn’t have let me out of the country if I’d not done so…

Fortunately not many people in the airport, we found a restaurant in the middle of the area with exceptionally comfortable chairs so we planted ourselves there and bought something to eat and drink – then ate and drank veeeryyy veeeryyy slooowlyyyy so we could keep sitting there until we had to go out to the gate. A really nice white wine but not quite as good chicken strips, pretty dry.

Jón Lárus
ég

Huge plane, I had hoped we could find an empty row to lay down and try to sleep, like on the way to Sydney. But no, hardly an empty seat. The sound in the entertainment system was out in both of our seats which was totally irritating, fortunately I had some TV shows on my computer I hadn’t watched yet.

flugvélin

Flight route: Sydney-Alice Springs-Singaraja-Jakarta-Kuala Lumpur-Bengaluru-Abu Dhabi. We both fell fast asleep in spite of some totally irritating guys beside and behind us, that kept yelling and throwing their pillows back and forth even when the lights were out and everybody was trying to sleep. Total bores.

Day #14. Last whole day

Wakey-wakeys at half past six, Freyja had sent an sms, totally happy about the kangaroo photo, had shown it to all her friends. Well worth having visited the garden if only for this Awwwww! response. Was really looking forwards to seeing the kids again.

Must say that by this time we had started to worry just a bit about getting all the way home the next days. Had been seeing all sorts of “cancelled” messages on flights in Keflavík Airport, old Eyjafjallajökull didn’t show any signs of stopping. Really, really didn’t want to get stuck in Abu Dhabi, really far away from home, no visum so we didn’t know if we could go into the country at all for a hotel or if we’d have to wait for god-knows-how-long in the airport. London Heathrow did seem to be open so hopefully we’d get there.

Jón took his daily jogging, I really wish I enjoyed jogging but I hate it, and so never do any of it… After breakfast, went to the market and bought the last souvenirs to bring the kids and took a few photos. When we came out again I saw that it was actually forbidden to take photos in there, whoops! But nobody had noticed and my camera wasn’t confiscated or anything. Can’t imagine why it would be forbidden anyhow, didn’t see any secrets around.


Nice fishmarket


Better take care with those crabs, even though they’re tied.

Took the monorail round centrum, out at the stop closest to the Maritime Museum. Jón had seen a wine tasting advertised in a pretty nice wine shop close to Darling Harbour so there we went. The tasting wasn’t very exciting though, only 2-3 reds and whites but lots of sake which isn’t really up our alley. Tried the white and red and walked back to town.

Did see a humongous bottle of Chateau d’Yquem – that one probably would be enough for a party of 100 people as a dessert wine.

Still hadn’t tried any Vietnamese food so that’s where we headed. In a small area close to the hotel we found 5 Vietnamese restaurants, didn’t fancy 3 of them, one was too crowded but the last one had an empty table so there we went. This was easily the best food we had all the trip (maybe except for the kangaroo and crocodile the day before). Thit kho to – caramelized pork, believe it or not. Amazing. We’ve of course found a recipe and tried but couldn’t quite duplicate it. Might have to try a few more times.

Back to the hotel for a few minutes, we’d almost checked everything on our list to do in the trip so now we just went to Hyde Park (which is very much smaller than it’s namesake in London), laid in the grass with our books and read. Got about a half an hour or so in the garden until the sun went down and it got too cold. (this would be like the middle of November in our hemisphere, I really don’t think you could lay down in the park in Iceland in November, even for half an hour).

“November” or not, tons of beautiful flowering plants:

Walked around for a while, bought some bread and muffins to take to the hotel for dinner. Later in the evening we went outside to try to finish the checklist, out in the garden by the train station to try to see the Southern Cross.

Well, we did, even though the garden was too well lit to see stars very well. Would have been best to try this in the mountains, but that evening was cloudy so no go.

Hotel, dinner in the room and a bit of internet and Formula 1 (Jón) and reading (me). Sleep.

Day #13. Finally kangaroos!

Day #12 I’ve already covered here but here’s the 13th:

Slept in AGAIN, didn’t wake until half past seven, nice (well we did go to sleep pretty early the day before). Husband took a slow morning run (hahahah, he wouldn’t be able to run slowly even though he really tried) while I took a shower. French toast for breakfast, different from usually.

Anyhow, this day we really meant to see some kangaroos. It just didn’t seem right to come all the way to Australia and not see a single ‘roo. National flower we saw the previous day. We’d given up hope of seeing any wild ones so we had to go to a park. Didn’t fancy the zoo, but we had seen a flyer from a small animal park in the Sydney suburbs. Took the metro to Pennant Hills and bus from there. Actually it wasn’t easy, the train was delayed for more than half an hour, according to the station announcements first because of an accident on a previous station, then it changed into a sudden death and finally police action. Not nice. We had a similar incident in Copenhagen once, rather eerie.

Well, finally a train arrived and the trip didn’t go too badly after that. Went over Harbour Bridge, unfortunately I wasn’t quite quick enough to pull the video cam up from my bag, would have liked to have a short vid from the bridge. One photo I did get.

The metro trip took about an hour. Went the wrong way out of the station in Pennant Hills and couldn’t find the bus stop but fortunately it didn’t matter, caught the bus when we figured out where we were supposed to be. Can’t really say the signs in and around the metro are clear at all, no maps or list over the stations inside the wagons, nowhere you could see where it was going, maps and markings in the stations weren’t very clear or easy to understand at all, either. Some colour coding but that also could be put to better use. Nowhere as clear and easy as Paris or London to name only 2. Maybe the designers of the system use Metro equally much as the planners of Reykjavík Buses use the bus (that is not at all).

The little park seemed to not have very much money, a bit lacking in the surroundings but the animals seemed to be OK, not too crowded, enough water and shadow for them. You could pet both kangaroo and koala bears, the koala fur wasn’t as soft as I had thought.

Took quite a few photos, some on the phone to send to the younger daughter – the only thing she’d asked us to do was that if we saw a ‘roo we’d take a phone photo and send to her. So of course I did just that.


That was Freyja’s photo.

Finished the walkthrough and then had to wait a few minutes for the bus back to the station. Saw a shrub I really want for my garden (my family laughed when they saw the photo – I really like this colour)

Back the same way, stopped 2 stations earlier since we meant to go out to eat in Circular Quay (which I think I already mentioned is nowhere near to circular). My brother and sister-in-law had strongly recommended a Chinese restaurant with the view of the Opera House on Circular.

What they’d failed to mention was a specific menu they’d been really impressed by in that restaurant, so as we’d been eating a lot of oriental we decided to go to another one, and have a really nice Australian meal. Jón had some Barramundi, always wanted to try, and I went for kangaroo and crocodile on a mashed potato bed with a really nice bearnaise.

Amazingly good and of course lovely to sit in an outdoor café with a view of the most famous and probably the most amazing opera house in the world.

So I saw and ate kangaroo on the same day. The croc tasted like chicken…

After dinner we walked to the Opera, meant to take a walk through the house but when we saw how much it cost we decided not to. Wouldn’t have minded paying quite a bit for a couple of tickets to a show, but we were off-season and no shows or concerts we fancied. The price for just walking through the house with a guide was rather too steep.
No thanks – but this does give us a reason to go back to Australia and see and hear a proper opera show…

Went to the Australian Wine Centre, not far from Circular, bought a couple of bottles of this wine we’d been drinking. The prices of wine were really steep too, but we’d asked the store attendant to point us towards a nice, not too expensive wine. He then told us to try a wine in a sales rack, for 18 AUD. We were totally amazed by the wine but failed to find any reference to it on the net. So this time we asked about it. Turned out to be a wine from a top producer which didn’t think his grapes measured up that year. So instead of lowering his standard, he made this wine, with a non-recognizable label, a white one with the words Secret Label, Barossa Valley. The attendant told us his wines normally cost about 85 AUD. We tried to press him for who it was, since we actually would have liked to be able to buy his wines – even for 85 dollars, but no go.

Took a Sydney Ferry from Circular to Darling Harbour, 3 stops on the way, getting dark, nice. Here you can see the entrance to Sydney’s Luna Park, the main theme park.

Quite lovely to sail in the evening, I think the harbour and well, sea is what amazes me about Sydney. Endless coves and inlets, islands and beaches and somehow all so clean. In big cities you normally wouldn’t fancy taking a swim in the harbour – I wouldn’t have minded it there at all.

Hotel, net, book and a lovely red wine in a water glass. Only one whole day left.

Day #11. Fire alarm

Managed to sleep in, didn’t wake up until half past seven (yes, AM) first time all trip we both slept through the night. About time, we were looking at departure in a few days… (pretty funny actually, translating, to sleep in in Icelandic is “að sofa út” which literally means to sleep out).

Might even have slept longer, hadn’t the fire alarm sounded at the aforementioned time. We, of course, like very atypical Icelanders jumped into some clothes, grabbed our pocketbook/purse and were ready to run out of the room when the alarm bell stopped ringing so instead of going all the way outside we went to breakfast. Debated if we dared take the elevator, there’s no open stairway in the hotel, only the emergency one. Decided on risking the elevator. Saw a couple of fire trucks with blue blinking lights outside from the breakfast hall window, the alarm went off for a short while during breakfast but neither staff nor guests took any notice of it so we didn’t either. Seems like Australians are equally careless about this sort of thing as are we Icelanders.

The Blue Mountains trip was delayed one day, so instead we decided to make this a museum and park day. Went to the Australian Museum and saw an exhibition on Australia’s flora and fauna plus a magnificent show on dinosaurs. A really impressive interactive table with the most dangerous animals – they seemed to jump out at you.

Japanese lunch, an all-you-can eat buffet with sushi and other Japanese food. I really liked their concept – if you take more than you can eat you have to pay extra. Never seen that sort of warning or rule before.

Then for another round in the Botanical Gardens. I’m sure I could put on an half an hour show with all the photos I took there. Amazing to see all those exotic plants – one didn’t really recognize any of them, except for some popular houseplants at home – hardly any of the same. Even the grass looks different. Saw a rosemary bush, about the same size as our house pride plant we have in our front room.

I’m sure it doesn’t sound like we did a thing that day but it was already about 3 PM when we were done with the park. Back to hotel, 3 shops on the way, bought a big jigsaw puzzle with a world map, Australia in the middle, for our youngest, and a couple of books – since we hardly had any with us (see this post)

Divided the remaining net hour between us – the hotel room was actually freezing. Maybe Australians are like the British, don’t turn on the heating until a certain day, instead of when they feel cold like we would do.
Wasn’t freezing out or anything, about 11°-19°C, but a bit down from the previous days’ 26°C or so. Put my warm computer under my bed covers to keep them warm while we went out to eat.

Went to a Thai place, living in the middle of Sydney’s China Town we used the opportunity to taste all sorts of Asian cookery. Done Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian, South Korean, now Thai, which left Vietnamese and possibly Taiwanese too. Really nice. Hadn’t seen any Australian places really, some Italian, Spanish, German, even British and Portuguese but none advertising Surf’n’Turf or kangaroo or crocodile. Weird.

In this obviously popular Thai place (totally stuffed on this Wednesday evening) we just had to try the Pad Thai noodles, which we always get at our favourite Thai place here (Krúa Thai) and, well Krúa’s are actually more tasty. The ice cream and coffee were amazing, though.

Back to the hotel, donned our pajamas and straight under the duvet, computer wasn’t quite cold yet. Really thought about taking a hot tub bath every day for the rest of the trip to get even with the hotel…

Day #10 Sailing and more

Husband woke up at 6 AM, weird how the jet-lag hits us differently. Went jogging at 7 and then woke me up when he got back about an hour later. He’d run some water in the bathtub to see if the water circled anticlockwise in the southern hemisphere. That it did:

Breakfast, shower, and out we went.

Started by checking when to catch the train to Leura in the Blue Mountains. A perfect one at 9 o clock, meant to go there the next day. Takes about 2 hours.

Walked to Darling Harbour, way shorter from the hotel than Circular Quay. On the way there we stopped at the Chinese Friendship Garden, there the battery in the video recorder gave up, I must try and find an extra battery for it. Totally irritating not being able to switch when it runs dry. Fortunately the camera in my phone is excellent so the day didn’t go by unphotographed.

The Friendship Garden is lovely, glad we decided to pay the entry. Not touristy at all. Might go there again, depends on how much time we’d have. Loved the lizard in the tea house.

Jón Lárus had read in our travel book about a restaurant in Darling Harbour where one could get Hokkien noodles. We once bought a jar of Hokkien sauce and I’ve never tried a better canned sauce in my life. Of course you can’t get it any more though :( The noodles in the restaurant didn’t even taste nearly as good – apparently Hokkien isn’t a uniform anything. The duck that the noodles accompanied was delicious, though.

Down to the harbour, didn’t want to spend $35 each for Sydney Aquarium, maybe later. Took a water taxi to Circular Quay, only the two of us on the boat so we chatted with the taxi captain (must be his title, right?) all the way. Asked about the volcano, of course…

leigubátur

Arrived at Circular, walked to The Rocks, went back to the Australian Music Information Centre (I’m chairman of the board in the Icelandic sister centre actually), I bought a CD with one of the pieces we heard at the concert. Decided to skip buying the printed music, it’s published by Ricordi in London so it shouldn’t be hard to get a copy if we wanted to sing it sometime. Let my conductor hear the piece first.

Meant to buy another piece, an Australian string quartet but the composer hadn’t yet put the piece in the centre. Got the composer’s email address, might be in touch later if my daughter and friends would like to play the piece. Might try to see if he’s on Facebook, though.

After the visit to the centre we found a microbrewery stationed in Sydney’s oldest hotel, all the way on top of The Rocks. Not bad. Then Sydney Observatorium, a pretty interesting stargazing museum, there we also heard some Aboriginal folklore about how the world came to be. Amazing.

Saw these signs on the way back:

Back to the hotel, both really tired even though it was only 5 PM. Took an hour to walk back, stopped a few times, bought the handbag I fell for a few days earlier, also went into the best-arranged used book shop I’ve ever been in, the used-book shops here tend to be mostly not arranged, at least not like this – by type of book and then alphabetical. Not all just jumbled together. Didn’t find the Garth Nix books I was looking for, though. Saw a Culinaria book, really cheap, decided to maybe buy it if it would still be on sale later on in the week.

At the hotel, Jón made dinner, cut down the rests of yesterday’s steak, a few chips along and then cheese and muffins for dessert. Net and sleep.

Agnus Dei

Just wanted to share one of my pieces, from when I went to Norway in March this year. Christians Consort and Agder Orkesterforening play the Agnus Dei, the last movement from Mass of Guðbrandur. Martin Pearson conducting.

Will keep on with my Australian travel diary soon, promise :)

Day #9 First day of touristing

What a nice feeling to wake up and not have to be anywhere special, just to be able to do whatever we liked. We were both pretty stiff and aching after the surfboards the day before, though.

Saw quite a few festival guests at the breakfast buffet, most of them were on their way back home that day so a few farewells were in order. Most spoke of flight plans and volcanos…

After breakfast and a short peek at the internet we were off, Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and the Botanical Gardens were to be the order of the day. Walked for about an hour to get to the bridge, stopped a few times on the way though, f.ex. in Queen Victoria Building, an amazing shopping mall of sorts. There I saw these shoes I really, really wanted (well, I’d have had to buy a complete dressing outfit to go with them actually) but since they cost 600 AUD (the Australian dollar is a bit less than the American one – not a lot less though), well I sort of didn’t buy them.

Loved the building, stained glass windows (see on my Flickr page) and an amazing clock in the middle, showing day, month and year (and time, of course), with a ship sailing all the world’s seas around the clock (literally). Brill.

klukka

The Harbour Bridge was awe-inspiring too, 500 metres between the piers but we walked quite a bit longer than that kilometre, you can’t get up on the bridge by the piers. Apparently you can walk up on the bridge arc, I think I’d probably have died of fright if I tried that, though.

Took about a thousand photos of the Opera House from the bridge, a brilliant view. Also photographed a house I wouldn’t mind having as a summer house – maybe next time we have a few billion dollars we don’t know how to use!

húdið

Down again, had lunch on the roof of a restaurant in The Rocks, view over the harbour and opera house again. 10 dollar steaks turned out to be huge with rucola salad w/balsamico, fries and a really good champignon sauce. The “light lunch” promptly changed to the main meal of the day, wasn’t even any way we could finish. The restaurant didn’t have doggie bags (some regulations) so I fished a clean small plastic bags from my backpack and stowed the rest of the steaks away. No way we’d let them throw them out, nope.

lunch

Walked round the not circular at all Circular Quay to the Opera House. Took a short video of an aboriginal playing his didgeridoo for the tourists, then threw a few coins in his bag. He then sang a Thank you, through the instrument – unfortunately I of course had stopped recording.

On to the Opera, walked round the house but decided the weather was way too nice to spend an hour or two inside in the guided tour. Save that for later in the week. Sunny and 25°C is perfect for me – outside. It was supposed to cool a bit down later that week. Took some more photos though.

óperuhúsið

The Botanical Gardens were right behind the house, went there and saw incredibly many exotic plants and a ton of bats. Not sure I’ve seen a bat before, definitely not that many. Wished I had a better camera.

leðurblaka

Back to hotel, found out we had walked at least 10 kilometres that day and a lot of them on steps so our feet were glad to get back to the room. Bought some Dim sum and various other Chinese ramekins for dinner, nice to be in the middle of Sydney’s China Town, lots of exciting take-out food all around. Dim sum is another dish I only knew from Restaurant City.

Donned pajamas and bed, got a glass of red and sat down with computer to write in my travel diary, even though the clock was only & PM. Hardly left the bed after that, some internet and reading and sleep around 11 PM.

I totally forgot earlier to post the ABC Classics theme (the classical section of Australia’s biggest radio station) used before all the ISCM Festival concerts – the station recorded all the festival concerts, some were broadcast live and some later, a great support to the festival and to new music.

Here’s the theme:
ABC ISCM theme by cyradis

far down



Öxarárfoss að ofan, originally uploaded by hildigunnur.

Went to hubby’s sister and brother-in-law’s summer house on Þingvallavatn the other day. That’s of course close to Þingvellir where the first parliament in the western world was held, hundreds of years ago. I’ve always meant to walk to the top of the famous waterfall Öxarárfoss, and since we had the time we stopped the car and walked a short way.

Quite amazing but I must say I was just the tiniest bit scared up there. No fences or anything…

Here’s a photo from down the other end:

Day #8. Final day of festival

Woke up early, breakfast and then met up with some new and older friends for a trip to the beach. Eight of us, took two cabs to the famous Bondi Beach.

I don’t think I’ve been to such a fabulous beach before, apparently it’s supposed to be one of the 10 best beaches in the world. Not that I know how they figure that sort of thing out. About a kilometre long, 100-150 m. wide and squeaky clean, no trash floating around. The sea was also incredibly clean, especially since the beach is pretty central in a big city. They have loads of beaches in Sydney, it’s one of the things I really like about the city.

The sand was just a bit cold, air temperature was only about 17°C this early in the morning (and fairly late autumn too) but I sure prefer cold to too hot, can’t stand burning my feet on hot and dry sand.

The water was great, not very warm, maybe about the same temp as an Italian swimming pool (Icelandic swimming pools are way warmer), just a bit cold to dive in but one got used to it at once.

Anna, a local woman who had something to do with the festival (don’t quite know what) came and helped us, loaned us a couple of surfboards and taught us to ride the waves a bit. Some of us managed better than others… I didn’t get to try the big board because about an hour into our beach trip Anna had an accident – actually she was really lucky that two of our friends noticed in time that she had gotten mixed up in the ropes on the board and helped her. Who knows how it might have gone – she got a small concussion on her head and was pretty disoriented in the water. Whew! Fortunately she felt much better after a short while, but didn’t feel like going into the water again that morning. Anyway, I still haven’t tried a proper board. Later, hopefully.


a few from the group heading into the waves.

The beach got a tiny minus point for ice cream that didn’t really taste of anything, but after that we went back to the hotel in another taxi with most of the group. The others were heading back to other parts of the world but we were going to a concert. Said farewell to our friends, didn’t envy my Icelandic friend of flying home, we didn’t even know if his flights to and from London would go, our not so beloved volcano was acting up. You don’t really want to be stuck in Abu Dhabi, no you don’t! (well, I’d actually very much like to visit that part of the world but apparently it’s really expensive). Anyway, Eyjafjallajökull (Aya-fyad-la-yo-kudl) had a week to quiet down before we were supposed to fly home so we decided not to worry too much about that.

The concert bus, an old rattletrap we had been riding in all week, took off from the hotel at 13:00 in lovely weather. The temperature was by then about 23°C (74°F), quite nice and sunny. Took about an hour to drive to the Blue Mountains, there we came closest to seeing kangaroos until then (some street signs warning about kangaroo passing). No live ones though.

This was the concert I had looked forward to the most, (well, except for my own one of course), Sydney Chamber Choir, singing a very exciting programme.


Loved the organ.

I wasn’t disappointed either, a brilliant concert. Decided to try to get the music and a recording of one of the pieces, by Australian Ross Edwards. Sure I could find it in Australia’s Music Information Centre.

In the intermission we started talking to some people we hadn’t met before. They turned out to be extremely nice (as almost all the Australians we had met, actually), when we talked about wanting to visit the mountains properly they invited us to come later in the week for a tourist day up high. We’d just have to take the train there. Of course we said yes please! and got their telephone number and email address to be in touch when we got back to Sydney.

Back to the hotel, both fell asleep on the bus. They say it takes a day per hour to get rid of the jet lag. According to that, most of the festival guests didn’t manage to turn the day around at all, we not until on the Thursday in our latter week.

Out for dinner, decided to not go very far from the hotel. About 50 metres away from the hotel entrance we found a Korean restaurant with the dish Dolson Bibimbap on the menu. I just HAD to try that – had only seen that dish on the Facebook game Restaurant City and it sounded really exciting. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to photograph the dish until after it was stirred together, when it comes to the table it’s really colourful, all the meat and vegetables separate in the bowl with an egg yolk in the centre but then it’s stirred with a tablespoon or two of a red spicy sauce and looks less fancy. Excellent meal.


Dolsot bibimbap.

Jón ordered a dish called Sewoo Bokkumbap but that was much less fancy, fried rice with veggies and shrimp. Tasted very good too. We had also gotten some appetizers in small bowls but the service was so fast that we weren’t even close to be able to finish those before the main courses were on the table.

Back to hotel, relaxing after a long day. Jón went out to see if he could find a sports bar that showed Formula 1 but no go. Found a big bar with 2 gigascreens but one of them was showing bike racing and the other Australian rugby. Bought one day of hotel net instead so he could follow the race live on a site that shows statistics and Twitter-like comments on the race – and so that I could get on the net a bit, afterwards too.


Formula 1 fan in action.

I suppose most of us know the feeling to be tired but not sleepy. The other way round – sleepy but not tired feels weird, though. Rather nice actually, at least when you can allow yourself to fall asleep. Not so at some of the concerts in the week before, I really didn’t want to fall asleep but there was totally nothing I could do about it. Just like somebody pushes a button and bang – you’re asleep.

Day #7. Out of town

That Saturday we left Sydney behind, concerts and meetings in Campbelltown, about 40 kilometres south and west of the city. Took a bus along with the delegates and a few other guests at 11:00, a beautiful day, sunny and 23° Celsius.

Campbelltown isn’t a very exciting town, actually we had a fairly bad experience there, well let’s not go ahead of myself here, though.

Didn’t matter much, the day was fairly packed with festival activities. Arrived at Campbell Arts Centre, a nice lunch and concert at 13:00, excellent string quartet music, 4 for Australia, new and older Australian string quartets. Loved the concert (no falling asleep, nope).

Loved this cello, on the wall in the Arts Centre:

After the concert, the General Assembly of ISCM in the town’s Civic Centre. I and Jón Lárus didn’t want to hang around for the whole meeting (not being delegates), so we went downtown for some basking in the nice weather and to see if we could find a pub. On the way downtown Jón actually got attacked, we were walking over a junction, 3 young guys were walking over the street in the opposite direction. I was a couple of steps ahead of him and all of a sudden I hear this commotion behind me. One of the guys had then used an Australian football technique, bumping his shoulder really hard into Jón Lárus, so he fell on his back in the street. Fortunately he didn’t hurt himself but was of course a bit put out. The guys thought this hilarious and walked away laughing. Grrr! He stood up and we walked on, a bit shaken, about 40-50 metres on we met some other guys, those looked a bit shady, one hulking and tattooed, another extremely thin, almost like a walking skeleton, don’t remember the third one too well. Must say we were a tiny bit frightened, maybe this was a dreadfully bad part of town, we didn’t know, but decided not to try to run away or pass to the other side of the road. Those guys turned out to be really nice, they had seen what had happened and said the same happened to the horribly thin one. Can’t judge people on the outside, I guess…

Well, we found a pub and got a beer each, I must say I’ve been in nicer pubs, but it was OK and we found a balcony with a nice view and fairly quiet. Afterwards we sat down in a public garden with our books for a while, until Kjartan (Icelandic delegate) sent us a text message about some more exciting things starting to happen in the meeting. Elections and a mutiny and everything – well I won’t want to go to deeply into the politics here.

Also saw some introductions to the next festivals, next year in Zagreb, Croatia, Belgium 2012, Austria/Slovakia together 2013, Poland 2014 and more.

We were thinking whether or not to show interest in having the festival in Iceland in the next 8-10 years but with the volcano spewing we didn’t think it would be enthusiastically received. Better wait a bit.

Loved those flowers:

Back in the bus after the meeting – probably half an hour later than planned. Back to the Arts Centre, finger food for dinner, lots of it and very good too, just as well since we were all pretty hungry after a long meeting.

A guest with by far the longest hair I’ve ever seen:

I might have been tired but I thought the latter concert wasn’t as good as the first one. A really nice group from Belgium but I kept falling asleep over the pieces. Was very glad when it was over and we got to go back into the bus and I could close my eyes without being ashamed of it. Well, actually I didn’t sleep, Jón Lárus did though.

Back at the hotel, we went straight to bed over the objections of our Faroese friends who wanted to have some drinks. Well, we were planning to hit the beach early next morning so going out for drinks really wouldn’t have been a good idea. Took a short look at the net and then to bed.

Day #6. Concert

Stomach problems very much better, fortunately, not quite up to standard but good enough to get going. Met up with our fellow Icelander in the lobby, had heard of things happening at home, moguls being arrested and such, finally. Can’t say we were unhappy about that.

Philippa, the festival manager asked us if we wanted to come to an open meeting, we of course went there. Was pretty good, an interesting panel and good and intellectual questions and answers. Also good to see some more of the festival guests. The only thing I thought lacking was that we were all staying in a hotel – with no hotel bar where everyone would gather in the evening and get to know each other.

Finally found a proper supermarket, didn’t buy anything at the time since we were heading to a concert. Also found a huge market with all sorts of things to be bought at a cheap price, much like our own Kolaport, except instead of dried fish, shark and flat bread they had tons of exotic fruit and vegetables which we’d never seen before, even though the supermarkets at home are fairly well stocked with fruits and vegs from around the world. The pictures on the T-shirts also were quite different, aboriginal art instead of lopapeysa patterns.


Fleiri á flickrsíðunni minni.

Bought a few beers to put in the fridge – I only wanted a small one so I bought a Pilsner Urquell (one of my favourite Czech beer brands, their dark Master just might be my favourite beer in the whole world), a 25 centiliter bottle. Without checking the price. Got a small shock when I realized what the beer had cost, about 4 times more than at home – and people complain about the state having monopoly on selling alcohol and about the prices! Obviously everything will get better if/when sales of alcohol will be free in Iceland – not!

A concert in the ABC house at 13:00, brilliant piece by Kristian Blak, another I liked a lot too by Hubert Stuppner – wouldn’t mind having a recording of that one (hmm, wonder if ABC’s site’s still open). 3 more pieces, one for Shakuhatchi flute and strings, not bad, and 2 other ones just for strings, maybe a bit too long for my taste.

Back to the hotel to change clothes for the concert with my piece on it. Had some extra time to kill, walked to a pub with free WIFI, bought a lemon marengue pie each, a glass of white wine for me and a beer for Jón. Just as good the pies and drinks were nice, the net didn’t work. Had the system rebooted for us, no go. I’m on a Mac and Jón on Windows and nothing worked. Irritating. Australians seem to be just a bit backwards in Net usage, we didn’t see anyone else trying to use a computer in the pub (around here a third to fourth of café users will have a computer on their table). Also saw a book store computer using MS Dos, didn’t think anyone in the whole world used MS Dos any more… Book shop had about 6-7 books I wanted, though! Might want to visit it again, later in the trip.

Then to the concert in The Con, brilliant concert, fabulous children’s choir – surpassing our best one here (and that one was really good, too). Recorded my song on my camcorder, here goes:

Skipped the day’s final concert, went out to a nice Italian place instead to celebrate. All in all an euphoric day.

Day #5. Sick

Here comes the boring post. Wake up at 6:30 in the morning, stomach queasy, went to breakfast anyway and back up, managed to fall asleep. Wake up feeling worse, now with diarrhoea. Probably not food poisoning since me+hubby had always eaten the same stuff, just good old boring stomach flu. Not what I wanted.

He went out to buy some cola and see if he would manage to find open WIFI anywhere. He hadn’t been gone long when I managed to get in touch with the net on my computer, using the Safari browser, Firefox seemed to be the problem, most likely some internal thing, couldn’t figure what, though. Was pretty happy about finally getting in touch with the world. Bought a couple of hours and checked my mail and a short peek at facebook. Used half an hour or so, then just continued reading.

We had a ton of books to read, the penultimate Stieg Larsson book which I had forced myself not to read until Australia, Bill Bryson: A Short History of Almost Everything, Ben Goldacre: Bad Science (amazing book), The Mermaid by Camilla Läckberg, two of the Demigod books by Rick Riordan, a Stone Soup comic book and if this hadn’t been enough, I had seen Drowned Wednesday, the third book in The Keys to The Kingdom by Garth Nix in a used-book shop for only a couple of dollars the day before. Bought it, of course, I had already read books number 1 and 2 so this was just a piece of luck. Enough to read, at least.

Jón Lárus came home irritated, the open net in the pub hadn’t worked. Was glad I managed to get into the hotel net.

Read 2 of the easy-read book on this sick day but didn’t start on the Larsson one, better try to leave something easiar and more mindless to read for the flight than Bryson and Goldacre.

Maybe one could complain about the hotel, it’s getting on in years and it shows, the bathroom sink and tiles a bit cracked and looked like they were from the 1970s, wallpaper a bit shabby and the walls could use a layer of paint. But the bed was excellent, not too hard, not too soft, Baby Bear type. The bed in Hotel Norge, the Norwegian hotel I stayed at in March was of the Mama Bear type, way too soft, sink down the middle and my back hurt. Really counts for something, especially when you spend a whole day mostly in bed. Never mind that the Norwegian hotel was much newer and classier.

No photos taken this day.


July 2020
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